Monday, February 23, 2009

Europe - complaints about excess of regulation

Telecoms bosses urge less regulation

Leading European telecoms companies on Tuesday urged governments to ease the regulations on them, so the industry can play a major role in lifting economies out of recession.

Spain’s Telefónica and Vodafone of the UK said telecoms companies could fuel economic recovery, but warned that their efforts were hampered by regulations, notably from Brussels.

Colao, Vodafone’s chief executive, complained the industry was suffering from “regulatory activism”.

Telecoms companies are using the world’s largest mobile phone conference in Barcelona to highlight how the industry makes a significant contribution to gross domestic product.

At the Mobile World Congress on Tuesday, César Alierta, Telefónica’s chairman, complained that stimulus packages devised by governments were not paying sufficient attention to the role the telecoms industry could have in fostering economic recovery.

He highlighted how fixed line operators were contemplating multibillion-euro investments in superfast broadband networks that could improve productivity.

But Mr Alierta suggested such networks could be put at risk by regulatory uncertainty. “We are not asking for public funds,” he said. “We are only asking for long-term regulatory certainty and stability.”

Mr Colao highlighted how Viviane Reding, European commissioner for telecoms, was seeking steep cuts in the charges mobile operators levy for connecting calls to their wireless networks.

Vodafone is against Ms Reding’s proposal and Mr Colao said a balance had to be struck between her push for cuts in the charges and the need for investments in mobile networks.

On Monday, Wang Jianzhou, chairman of China Mobile, highlighted how the rollout of China’s third-generation mobile networks would create 300,000 jobs.

The GSMA, the industry association that represents mobile operators and is hosting the Mobile World Congress, said governments must help the industry with radio spectrum. It said governments should ensure mobile operators get access to 25 per cent of the spectrum made available by the switchover from analogue to digital television.

Mobile operators, which are keen to use the spectrum to expand wireless networks into rural areas, fear that television companies will try to retain all of it.

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